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Save Her from This Electronic Nanny!

If your child is spending more time with her than with you, it's time you intervene.

When Astha, 8, walks into the class, hers is not 'the shining morning face'. She is listless, and growing more so as the day progresses. As the school draws to a close, one can detect a slight animation in her. But she is most excited to reach home and run into the arms of her mesmerizing nanny.

Pulak Gupta, the 6 year old, a diehard Sachin fan, suddenly starts preferring his ever-smiling nanny to his bat and daily evening sessions at the pitch.

Madhavi Chatterjee, 7, the chatter-box, has suddenly started answering in monosyllables and nods. Instead of spending time with her mum, she'd rather sit with her nanny. And the rest of the world ceases to exist for her.

Who is this Nanny?

While we unwind, cook a special meal, and catch up with our backlog, this 'Nanny' sits unobtrusively in a corner and keeps our kids entertained for hours together. On the face of it- she seems to be an answer to all our prayers!

So who is this Nanny who seems to be the answer to all our prayers? Yes, it is an electronic nanny, and none other than the ubiquitous TV (or the idiot box as some would prefer to call it). With Tiny TV, Cartoon Network and many other twenty-four hour kids' channels, and their never-ending sagas, it is no wonder that our children are hooked to the TV! They would prefer to go without food one day rather than miss a show.

But if we just glance at what our children our savoring, we find only large helpings of gory WWE bouts, sleaze in the form of 'music albums', the all-time (literally, as they go on and on) favorites, sitcoms and violent cartoons. Is this really what we want our children to grow up with?

And for slightly older children, the other electronic nanny - the computer - is no better. Without going into the details of the implications of playing the violent games, let us just be aware that these games can be highly addictive. The thrill of progressing from one 'stage' to another, beating unknown rivals… the sheer challenge can fell the much mightier than a mere child!

What is at Stake?

What is our little one putting at stake because of all these? Lots! And some of these include:

  • Actual physical activity;
  • Her own vibrant imagination;
  • Her creativity; her imagination and perception;
  • Precious hours of self-study;
  • The joys of reading; and
  • As the most recent survey says-her communication abilities!
So this nanny, who on the face of it seems to be helping us with child-raising, is in fact hindering their growth.

A Tough Battle

Conquering these two opponents - the TV and the computer - is tough, as both are irrefutably attractive. And too many of us side-step the battle with the convenient, "Oh, she doesn't listen to me at all!" Some parents get complacent or surrender in the face of screams and sulks. But then, it is the choice between avoiding temporary unpleasantness, and permanent skewing of our children's personalities and attitudes.

We Can Overcome

True, it isn't practical to ban either of these from our homes (though in incorrigible cases it might be the wisest thing we ever do!). But it isn't as difficult to monitor the time spent or the type of programmes/ games watched or played.

We have to brace ourselves to face temper tantrums, 'won't speak to you' 'Momma's a monster' monologues. But take heart, they won't be as lasting as the irreparable damage we can cause our kids if we take the least resistance path and let them be swallowed, body and soul, by these electronic nannies.

Some Do's

  • Set limits from the beginning,
  • Be alert to signs of addiction- reluctance in studies, games, and the tendency to pounce on the remote.
  • From the age of 5, allow them favorite programs/ games and select the best one or two. But set time limits. One hour a day is about all they should get, with some flexibility on holidays.
  • Be gentle but firm about the rules e.g. Completing homework before watching a certain serial, going out to play, or reading something a story book.
  • If they break the rules they should be made to suffer consequences-which may mean giving a miss to some favorite programs or desserts.
  • Install child-locks on the TV and e-nannies like 'Krowser', which can be easily downloaded from the Internet.
  • Set Internet options so as to prevent children from visiting unauthorized and restricted sites.
  • Google, Yahoo etc. offer safe search facility- Avail them!

Some Don'ts

  • Don't try to implement any rule suddenly
  • Don't be unreasonable in your expectations
  • Don't implement anything without giving logical reasons

Provide them with alluring alternatives

  • Colorful toys, intriguing indoor games
  • Books (initially in the form of 'reading together', until they are able to read on their own and get hooked to it)
  • Do-it-yourself kits- of drawing, coloring, origami, paper-cutting
  • Your time-exclusively for her.

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